[Actual Play] Apocalypse World, Session Two

In Actual Play, I write a bit about a game recently played. These posts are part reflection on the session, part system commentary, and part recounting of the events that happened ‘in-game.’ In my Apocalypse World actual plays, I draw back the veil a bit and try to let you in on my meta-commentary on how the game sessions go, and what I think the system is doing for us while we play. Sometimes I bold phrases, and that’s because I’m trying to point out something the game tells us to, usually using a ‘move’ that the game book encapsulates in that exact phrase.

Just joining us? Read up on Session One and the characters here.

What Happened

Unity gets interrupted by Tao, again, who always interrupts him while he’s meditating to announce future badness , and Tao says there’s literal smoke on the horizon towards Kree. Some jerk named Roark who smells like smoke tries to start a fight with Lars in the bar. Lars pawns off the fight on one of his gang members. Unity goes hunting for his gang members, and Vigilance acts like it’s a bad idea. Anyway, Unity tracks down a bunch of his guys at Waystation bar, and there’s Roark beating the snot out of two of Lars’ guys. Unity makes them back down by shooting into the air, to great effect. Roark decides to chat with unity, who quickly figures out that Roark was the one who burned down the nearby farm. So, Unity tells him to head out from Purpose and go burn down Caryard or Boilin, and to not come back. Then Unity gets his guys together and starts the walk towards Kree. Back in Waystation, this weedy guy called Pierre sidles up to Lars and says he knows some sweet salvage. Lars tells him to go die, but wheedles the location of the salvage out of him anyways. Salvage is this recently burned down farm, so Lars and his boys grab their bikes and go roaring off to Kree (past Unity’s boys) and run off (nearly run over) a couple early defenders of the burned farm. They scavenge everything they can find, knives, food, and bounce before the cavalry show up. One of Lars’ guys thinks it’d be a hoot to run down and kill the defenders, but Lars puts his foot down on that particular idea before it can take root.

Meanwhile, in downtown, Eagle, Sledge, and Oliver are hiding out in this van while a group of about thirty guys in armor with weapons fan out across the square. They’re being led by this crazy lady in a lab coat, underwear, and a gas mask. They wisely decide to try and ambush one of these guys’ patrols to figure out who they work for and where they’re from. They sneak away together, but Oliver trips and falls down the stairs of the bus. Naturally. Sledge and Eagle have a decision to make: leave him to die, or go and save him. Eagle tells Sledge to go and get the patrol while he, himself, goes and saves Oliver’s butt. Sledge (Not so paladin, after all) agrees and follows this little patrol of guys down an alleyway. He tries to get them to give up, twice in fact, but in the end has to beat them to death with his hammer. No information there. Meanwhile, Eagle has fired round after round of grenade fire into the massed enemy and is gunning them down with MG fire. Not to be fucked with, indeed. Eagle’s overwhelming firepower causes the enemy to fall back in order and regroup. The incredible discipline of which actually causes the team to decide it’s best to run away in turn. However, Eagle captures a map of something supposedly located under downtown called “Metro.” Oliver opens his brain to the world’s psychic maelstrom to find out what Metro is, and discovers that it’s tunnels with trains underneath the city. We also established that Oliver’s view of the psychic maelstrom is pulsing sound waves. Why are these guys searching for that? Either way, Oliver takes a prisoner back to Cinema to work on him. (That was actually great emergent play, as Oliver Improved and chose to be able to work on people in his savvyhead shop just before he decided to take that guy prisoner.) But he still needs the missing piece of that still he bought in session one to get his little interrogation chamber up and running.

So, by this time Unity has been run off by the Kree for being nosy and comes back to Purpose. Vigilance points out that there was a gun battle in downtown earlier, so Unity hires Lars’ boys to go downtown and solve the problem. Lars broadly interprets this as a mandate to loot, pillage, burn, and murder everyone he comes across in downtown he doesn’t like and also get paid for it. So he totally bites. Eagle, Lars, Sledge, and Oliver have a short discussion where for a minute, they totally might go downtown together. Then Oliver mocks Lars relentlessly from the safety of Cinema and Lars remembers why he hates every human being that isn’t in his gang. So he leaves. Sledge, Eagle, and Oliver have a spooky drive through downtown and find the hidey-hole with a slaughtered corpse in it that was supposed to be Eagle’s contact – but find the still part that was supposed to be there. So, it looks like Oliver’s going to be making truth serum soon. Lars and his boys get ambushed by well organized gunfire while heedlessly looking for danger. They’re pinned down, but rush the enemy position for a brutal melee when their enemy unwisely relocates. And that’s where the session ended.

Thoughts

I liked some and didn’t like some about this session. First off, I ran it like a continuation of the first session- I set up the situations and characters for the PCs and asked them for justifications of why they were where they were doing what they were doing. I felt the playgroup needed a bit more Moves practice before we took on a whole session. That’s actually where I went wrong- because after a while I was doing all the thinking for what new things could happen. I had spoon fed the players and set up the expectation that I was going to run the table. I finished the session feeling drained and disappointed with how everything went. I felt that we’d focused on minutiae and generally that I’d been a failure as MC. I know looking back that I wasn’t a complete failure, but in reality I wasn’t trusting the collaborative environment to the players enough. They’re smart, creative people. They can do it.

I like the first session architecture for the first session, but I’d much rather have a session set off with the expectation that the players are going to run the show. They’ll be walking into that next time, and I think it’ll go swimmingly. I’m going to craft them love letters. Any ApW vets reading know what that means. My players don’t. More fun for them.

Until next time, look through the crosshairs.

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